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Managing References

An introduction to reference management programs and software.

What is LaTeX?


LaTeX is a typesetting markup language that is used to create formatted documents.

  • You create a plain text file, with the extension.tex, and mark the text up with commands that are processed to create a formatted document.
  • It is widely used by scientists, engineers and other academics because it makes it easy to typeset complex mathematical formulae.

What is BibTeX?


You can use BibTeX to automatically generate & format a bibliography in a LaTeX document.

First you need to create a bibliography database file with the extension .bib containing bibliographic entries.

You can then use the following commands in your LaTeX document:

  • \cite{label}
    • To insert a citation where label is the label of a bibliographic entry in a .bib file.
  • \bibliography{bibfilename}
    • To insert a bibliography where bibfilename is the name of a .bib file.
  • \bibliographystyle{bstfilename}
    • To choose a BibTeX bibliographic style file with the extension .bst.

LaTeX & BibTeX Example

This is an example of a .bib file called BibFile.bib that has just one bibliographic entry for a book:

Example .bib file

This is an example of a .tex file that refers to the .bib file:

Example LaTeX File

And a screenshot of a section of the resulting typeset output:

Example typset document

Using Reference Management Programs with BibTeX

Rather than having to edit your BibTeX bibliographic entries manually, you can manage your references with a reference management program, such as EndNote, and then export references in BibTeX format.

For example to export references from EndNote to a BibTeX file:

  1. Open your EndNote library.
  2. From the 'Select Another Style...' drop-down menu choose the style 'BibTeX Export'.
  3. Select the references you wish to export.
  4. From the 'File' menu choose 'Export'.
  5. Enter a file name and click 'Save'.
  6. Then change the extension of the file you saved from '.txt' to '.bib'.

See the following links for more information on reference management programs that support BibTeX:

Downloading references from databases in BibTex format

Many databases let you download references in BibTeX format, for example Inspec has a drop-down menu where you can select the format:

A screenshot from 
Inspec showing the option to select the BibTex format.

These are just some of the databases that have BibTeX as a download format option:

LaTeX Editors

Many editors are available that make it easier to create and manage LaTeX documents. They may include features such as autocomplete, spell check, and a graphical user interface, and allow PDF files and files in other formats to be created. Find some examples below:

Further Information

E-books on LaTeX & BibTeX

Books available in the library on LaTeX & BibTeX